Ocean City Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice System
Due to the fact that Ocean City is a unique destination from other parts of Maryland, it’s laws are enforced differently with separate priorities than many other parts of the state. Below, an Ocean City criminal lawyer discusses these differences and how the criminal justice system in Ocean City is unique. To learn more call and schedule a consultation today.
What Makes Ocean City a Unique Jurisdiction
Ocean City is unique because it is a vacation destination in Maryland and in the summer the population of Ocean City explodes. The overwhelming number of people in Ocean City in the summer are tourists and young people working summer jobs, not year round residents. It is just a different type of environment because of that. It is billed and marketed as a family resort which means that everyone in the criminal justice system is working hard to maintain that family environment that brings in the tourists and the money.
Law enforcement aggressively cracks down on behavior that impacts the tourist industry. Being charged with a crime is a very stressful experience, but being charged with a crime while on vacation is even more stressful. The person needs to arrange to come back to Ocean City for court, and has to consider what to do as far as representation.
While it may be tempting to wait until they go home and talk to an attorney where they live, that attorney may have zero familiarity with Ocean City and the police and prosecutors here. It is a much smarter decision to hire an attorney who lives and regularly practices in this area. Fortunately, so much communication with the attorney can be accomplished via email and telephone.
Law Enforcement Priorities in Ocean City
In the summer, the Ocean City police department hires numerous seasonal police officers so that the numbers of officers in Ocean City increases with the number of tourists and vacationers coming to Ocean City.
In the middle of summer in Ocean City you will see numerous police officers: they’re on the boardwalk, they’re patrolling coastal highway, you are not going to get more than a few blocks before you see an Ocean City police officer either in uniform or in a patrol car. They are attempting to keep the town safe for all of the vacationers that come here. They pay close attention to drivers on coastal highway and make traffic stops to investigate anyone suspected of drunk driving.
There’s a great deal of pedestrian traffic, people unfortunately get struck by cars in Ocean City every summer. There are pedestrian fatalities so keeping coastal highway safe is a huge priority for Ocean City Police.
There is also aggressive enforcement of the bars at closing time- officers will be in the area making sure people are exiting the bars in an orderly fashion, and they are also quick to stop anyone leaving a bar that they suspect has had too much to drink and is driving a car. There is a boardwalk with numerous shops and restaurants in Ocean City which is very unique it has a great deal of pedestrian traffic. In order to keep the boardwalk safe for families, the police aggressively enforce laws to keep the peace and prevent public disturbances. They are investigating anyone who appears to be intoxicated in public or who might be using illegal substances.
Issues Within The Ocean City Criminal Justice System
One of the biggest problems is how easy it is for somebody to be charged with a crime. In Maryland anybody could walk into the commissioner’s office and make an allegation against another person. Every commissioner is required to find if there is probable cause, which means that it’s more likely than not that what this person is saying did occur. Probable cause requires such a low burden of proof, and therefore it is extremely easy for a person to end up being charged with a crime.
The mere fact that a person has been charged can have horrible consequences. It’s a matter of public record, people will be able to look it up on the Internet, you may be the subject of a news report. It can impact your ability to find a job or keep the job that you have. There are so many consequences just to being charged, not even taking into consideration the potential consequences of subsequently being convicted.
Another major problem with the justice system is mandatory sentences. Oftentimes the legislature, in an attempt to show that they are tough on crime, will pass legislation that requires a judge to impose a mandatory minimum sentence. These laws effectively tie the judge’s hands and take away the judge’s discretion when imposing a sentence.
Judges should have the ability to assess every case and every defendant on an individual basis. They should be able to factor in several issues when sentencing a defendant, and apply those factors as they see fit. Issues such as a person’s mental health, substance abuse, and employment are all relevant to sentences. None of that can be taken into consideration when the judge is bound to follow a mandatory minimum sentence with no discretion.